A Data-Tinged Look Back at 2011

At the outset of each new year, I devote an edition of my column to review the significant data and database-related events of the previous year. Of course, to meet my deadlines, the column is written before the year is over (this column is being written in November 2011), so please excuse any significant news that may have happened late in December.

Early in the year, the big story was about IBM's super computer and analytical software package named Watson. Over the course of the 3 days in February, Watson competed on the Jeopardy game show against the show's two most successful contestants ... and beat them soundly. That brought IBM and Watson a lot of publicity, but more interesting from a data perspective was IBM's subsequent application of the Watson technology. IBM and health insurer WellPoint collaborated on products applying the analytical capabilities of Watson to improve diagnostic accuracy, make better-informed treatment decisions and fine-tune claims processing.

IBM also made news by investing $100 million for research on big data technologies and services. The initiative will focus on research to drive the future of massive scale analytics, through advancing software, systems and services capabilities. At the same, time IBM announced the expansion of its portfolio and furthering its investments in analytics with new, patented software capabilities to analyze massive volumes of streaming data with sub-millisecond response times and Hadoop-based analytics software to offer scalable storage to handle tens-of-petabytes level data.

In the announcement, IBM referenced its 2011 IBM Global CIO Study ( Evidently, 83% of the 3,000 CIOs surveyed said applying analytics and business intelligence to their IT operations is the most important element of their strategic growth plans over the next 3-5 years. Coupled with the predictions of IT industry analysts who claim that enterprise data growth over the next 5 years will increase by more than 650% (with 80% of this data being unstructured) IBM's investment in analytics and smarter computing initiatives seems to be a sound one.

But IBM was not alone in pursuing the big data market. Oracle unveiled its Big Data Appliance at Oracle OpenWorld 2011. The Oracle Big Data Appliance is an engineered system that includes an open source distribution of Apache Hadoop, Oracle NoSQL Database, Oracle Data Integrator Application Adapter for Hadoop, Oracle Loader for Hadoop, and an open source distribution of R.

The Acquisitions of 2011

The past year was full of important data-related acquisitions. Early in the year, Hewlett Packard (HP) announced its acquisition of data analytics provider Vertica. Vertica's analytics platform helps customers analyze massive amounts of data quickly and reliably, resulting in "just-in-time" business intelligence. By acquiring Vertica, HP broadens its capabilities for information optimization, adding sophisticated, real-time business analytics for large and complex sets of data in physical, virtual and cloud environments.

In early March, Teradata announced its intent to acquire Aster Data Systems. With this acquisition Teradata obtains Aster Data nCluster, an analytic platform, combining a massively parallel (MPP) row and column database with an integrated analytics engine. Recall that IBM acquired Netezza in 2010 for a very similar type of technology.

But what of the big players? Super acquisitive Oracle was busy in 2011 acquiring  intellectual property assets of Ndevr, as well as Pillar Data Systems (SAN storage systems provider), FatWire (website management software), Ksplice (Linux administration availability software), InQuira (knowledge management software), Datanomic (data quality software),  RightNow (cloud computing), and Endeca (business intelligence solutions).

IBM was also busy in 2011. The company acquired Algorithmics (risk analytics software), i2 (analytics for crime and fraud prevention), and Q1 (security analytics).

One of the bigger acquisitions of the year was pulled off by Microsoft. In May the company announced its intentions to acquire Skype, the leading internet communications company, for $8.5 billion in cash. Microsoft plans to use Skype to add value to its real-time communications software and platforms, including Lync, Outlook, Messenger, Hotmail and Xbox LIVE. Even though there were several areas of synergy, you have to be amazed that Microsoft paid $8.5 billion for Skype considering that Skype was sold about two years ago for $2.5 billion. That is a heck of a growth curve!

Oracle Still Atop the RDBMS Market

IT industry analyst firm Gartner, Inc. released its annual Worldwide RDBMS Market Share Report for 2010 and, as in the past couple of years, Oracle is the clear leader with a 48.1% market share. Oracle grew at 10.9%, exceeding both the industry average (9.9%) and the growth rates of its closest competitors.

Gartner also published research on the Worldwide Business Intelligence, Analytics and Performance Management Software Market, which it claims surpassed the $10 billion mark in 2010. The four largest vendors-SAP, Oracle, IBM and Microsoft-own 59% of the market share. SAP remained the number-one vendor in combined worldwide BI, analytics and PM software revenue in 2010, accounting for 23% of the market, followed by Oracle, SAS Institute, IBM and Microsoft.


And, of course, there were the daily, weekly, and quarterly travails of quarterly results, lawsuits, and product versions that we've all come to take with a grain of salt, too. But there is only so much room for my column so I had to cover just the highlights. Still, though, it was a busy year in the database world, wasn't it?